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The True-blue Democrat
August 1971 | Volume 22, Issue 5
I think he could win today. He was probably the greatest campaigner of his day and generation, you know. And on TV he would have been marvellous. On radio…his fireside chats, you know. He wasn’t, I would say, a good extemporaneous speaker, but he read beautifully, and the intonation of his voice and everything else went over. Made him, I think, one of the outstanding campaigners of all time. He wasn’t an orator in the way Stevenson was, and he didn’t have the type of oratory that Smith had or any of the other men of his time, but he read a speech well and got it over, and he did it with a great deal of sincerity, and it got across.
You say “sincerity,” but a great many people charged him with being insincere and deceitful. What about that?
I can truthfully say that Mr. Roosevelt—a lot of people accuse him of lying or being careless with the truth—that he never lied to me except about the third term. In my situation, and may I say this very modestly, there wasn’t any reason why he should have lied to me. I was doing everything I could for him and the party and the country, and whatever strength I had I got from my association with him. I wouldn’t be doing anything publicly that would be contrary to his wishes. So there was little reason why we wouldn’t always agree. Whatever little differences we had would be resolved his way or the way I suggested.
How do you feel about him as a human being now?
All I can say is this: the entire time I spent with Mr. Roosevelt, from the time I first met him in ’20 down through the years, it was always a delightful relationship and a fine experience. I have, of course, regretted the fact that my disagreement with him on the third term broke a friendship that had existed for all those years, and I saw him only three or four times after I retired, and I felt very badly about that.
Did he ever forgive you?
I don’t think so. I don’t think so.
Are you still a good Democrat?
I have a deep sense of loyalty to the Democratic Party. I started in politics in a small town with a population of about three thousand at the time. The town was 75 or 80 per cent Protestant, and at least 65 or 70 per cent Republican. I was an Irish Catholic, but I was elected to office eight times on the Democratic ticket. [Farley was elected town clerk of Stony Point, New York, four times, a supervisor twice. He won election to the state assembly once, and lost once, but carried the town both times.] So I have a sense of appreciation.
There is talk of the need for one or more new national parties. Do you think the two-party system will be with us for a while yet?
I hope it’s always with us.
Do you have any plans for retirement?
No notion of it.
Looking back on it all—the people you’ve met, the offices you’ve held, the fights you’ve fought—do you have any comment?
It’s been an interesting life.